Composition – The rule of thirds or golden ratio

I’ve read discussions in digital photography circles discussing the ‘golden ratio’ otherwise known as the rule of thirds and wondered what it was all about.

The rule of thirds is one of the most basic composition guidelines in photography. The rule of thirds makes use of a natural tendency of the human eye to be more strongly drawn towards certain parts of an image.

What is the Rule of Thirds?

The rule of thirds is an imaginary tic-tac-toe board is drawn across an image to break it into nine equal squares.

The four points where these lines intersect are strongest focal points.

The lines themselves are the second strongest focal points.

As you’re taking a photograph you would have done this in your mind through your viewfinder or in the LCD display that you use to frame your shot.

With this grid in mind the ‘rule of thirds’ now identifies four important parts of the image that you should consider placing points of interest in as you frame your image.

Not only this – but it also gives you four ‘lines’ that are also useful positions for elements in your photo.

The theory is that if you place points of interest in the intersections or along the lines that your photo becomes more balanced and will enable a viewer of the image to interact with it more naturally.

Studies have shown that when viewing images that people’s eyes usually go to one of the intersection points most naturally rather than the center of the shot – using the rule of thirds works with this natural way of viewing an image rather than working against it.

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